Best Overall Front Tire
Maxxis Minion DHF 3C/EXO
There's something about seeing the Maxxis printed in bright yellow (on the sidewall of a tire) that makes an entire bike look higher quality. The easiest and most likely cheapest way to get the most performance from your bike is by putting a quality tire on it; the Maxxis Minion
DHF would be our recommendation the majority of the time. From seasoned enduro pro bros, to those just looking for a more aggressive tire for their enduro or trail bike, the Minion is a workhorse. We might even go as far as saying that this tire has potential to take an intermediate rider to the next level. This tire is happiest when leaned into a turn aggressively. Timid riders may be hesitant, but we guarantee once they experience the sensation of this tire locking into a turn for the first time, they'll be scouring YouTube for "proper cornering technique" clips. A sturdy casing and great mix of tread compounds provided great sidewall support and exceptional grip at pressures as low as 20 psi, depending on terrain. A nice square profile, squared off edges, side knobs, and sidewalls all contribute to the overall quality of this award winner. After more than 120 miles on all sorts of terrain, the tread still looks fresh. The DHF might feel a bit overkill on super buff and hardpack dirt, but that's not the arena this beast was designed to fight in.
Best Overall Rear Tire
Maxxis Aggressor 2.3 EXO
As a pretty recent addition to an already stellar lineup of mountain bike tires from Maxxis, we were first introduced to the Maxxis Aggressor when it came spec'd on the Yeti SB5.5C 2016
29er, a bike we tested for our recent enduro bike review
. Richie Rude has been winning races on this tire in the Enduro World Series, so chances are this mountain bike tire can handle whatever you can throw at it. If you've ever seen footage of Rude ride, he's built like a linebacker and can beat a trail into submission - like he just caught it trying to steal an old woman's purse. The versatile tread pattern used for this mountain bike tire spreads its appeal beyond enduro riding; we wouldn't hesitate to put this tire on our trail bikes or even XC bikes. With respect to the DHF above, the tread pattern was lower profile. Ramping was omitted from the blocks and the sharp front edges met the ground with authority, providing plenty of bite, despite being so slight. Our EXO casing test tire weighed in at 892 grams and if you want even more peace of mind, it's available in Maxxis's Double Down casing option as well. We felt this tire was the best balance of rolling resistance, grip, and traction offered in the entire test and we expect to see a lot more of these tires out on the trail very soon.
Best Bang for the Buck for Your Front Tire
Specialized Butcher Grid
We couldn't help but draw comparisons between the Specialized Butcher Grid
and the Editors' Choice Maxxis Minion DHF. They both employed a similar tread pattern and share ride characteristics. While the cornering ability of the Minion barely edged out the Butcher, the Butcher was no slouch. The soft 42A tread compound felt planted on loose ground and rock faces alike and simply did not slip. Compared to the harder rubber found on the Control version of these tires that had us feeling like a fawn wearing ice skates, the performance of the Grid tire was vastly superior. Sixty dollars, you say? Please, just take our money. Selecting this mountain bike tire as our Best Buy was a no-brainer.
Best Bang for the Buck for Your Rear Tire
Specialized Slaughter Grid
By using the same side knob profile as the Butcher Grid and paring down the center tread, the Specialized Slaughter Grid
is a fast rolling tire that excels in turns. The rubber is a harder 60A in the center, but softer 50A for the side knobs; while it's not quite as soft as the Butcher above, the additional firmness of the Slaughter Grid keeps rolling resistance down and sacrifices little in traction. The semi-slick design might not be the preferred tread for lots and lots of loose climbing, but it'll get the job done. We doubt you'll be thinking about the climb when you're waiting for your buddies to catch up at the bottom of the hill.
Top Pick Award for Tokyo Drifting-Front
Schwalbe Hans Dampf 2.35 TrailStar EVO
For those that prefer a rounder tire profile, the Schwalbe Hans Dampf
rolls from center to edge with the greatest of ease. With knobs evenly spread across the width of the tire, leaning into turns feels smooth and predictable. The knobs increase in height, starting at 3mm in the center, increasing to 4mm for the intermediate or transitional knobs, and topping out at 6mm on the side knobs. In moist, rain-packed dirt, berms feel like warm toast, allowing these buttery smooth tires to smear evenly across the apex. One of our testers was particularly enamored by this mountain bike and set of tires, stating how it reminded him of his motocross days. Watching him pack heat into loose corners and counter-steering through them was pretty impressive to those of us that still struggle with the concept of turning our bars away from a slide. The triple rubber Trailstar compound adds a touch of durability to this notoriously fast wearing tire. It didn't feel like the fastest rolling tire with squared-edged, unramped blocks, though traction and braking power likely benefit from this design.
Top Pick Award for Slicing and Dicing Corners-Rear
Schwalbe Rock Razor 2.35 PaceStar EVO
at Competitive Cyclist
The Schwalbe Rock Razor
was the most dramatic example (in our test) of the semi-slick tire designs, which are storming the enduro scene. At first glance, the small square blocks forming the center tread look like something you might see on a freestyle bike in the bike park. Bring it in a little closer though and you'll notice the DH style side knobs. There's no guessing when you roll from the center tread onto the huge side knobs. Laid out in a straight line, at the same angle, and using the same knob design throughout, the distinction between center tread and side tread is unmistakable. Once the proper lean angle is achieved, the side knobs engage and you're ready to enjoy the G-forces for the remainder of the turn. Less aggressive riders are likely to think this is a terrible tire if they're too hesitant to lean the bike into corners. Remaining on the center tread or only partly engaging the side knobs will send you sliding through turns. Even more troublesome is the lack of braking power provided by the minimal tread. These tires are purpose built for speed. Grabbing a handful of brake in an emergency is worth a shot, but a futile effort as you're simply too late by this point. You're probably going to want something big for a front tire to give you a better chance at stopping on command.